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*** SuperStrings ***
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*** SuperStrings - Introduction ***

Superstring theory resolves the most enigmatic problem of twentieth century theoretical physics: the mathematical incompatibility of the foundational pillars of quantum mechanics and the General Theory of Relativity. In doing so, string theory modifies our understanding of spacetime and the gravitational force. One recently discovered consequence of this modification is that spacetime can undergo remarkable rearrangements of its basic structure requiring the fabric of spacetime to tear apart and subsequently reconnect.
Such processes are at best unlikely and probably impossible in pre-string theories as they would be accompanied by violent physical effects.
In string theory, on the contrary, these processes are physically sensible and thoroughly common.

The usual domains of general relativity and quantum mechanics are quite different. General relativity describes the force of gravity and hence is usually applied to the largest and most massive structures including stars, galaxies, black holes and even, in cosmology, the universe itself.
Quantum mechanics is most relevant in describing the smallest structures in the universe such as electrons and quarks. In most ordinary physical situations, therefore, either general relativity or quantum mechanics is required for a theoretical understanding, but not both.
There are, however, extreme physical circumstances which require both of these fundamental theories for a proper theoretical treatment.

String theory is a science in progress; we are still learning new and unexpected things about it everyday. Whether or not string theory actually describes the universe that we live in is not known - yet. As we will see it has remarkable potential to do so.

Think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension is in the string, different musical notes will be created by the string. These musical notes could be said to be excitation modes of that guitar string under tension.

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There are two basic types of string theories:
those with closed string loops that break into open strings,
and those with closed string loops that don't break into open strings.
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In a similar manner, in string theory, the elementary particles we observe in particle accelerators could be thought of as the "musical notes" or excitation modes of elementary strings.

In string theory, as in guitar playing, the string must be stretched under tension in order to become excited. However, the strings in string theory are floating in spacetime, they aren't tied down to a guitar. Nonetheless, they have tension. The string tension in string theory is denoted by the quantity 1/(2 pi a'), where a' is pronounced "alpha prime"and is equal to the square of the string length scale.

If string theory is to be a theory of quantum gravity, then the average size of a string should be somewhere near the length scale of quantum gravity, called the Planck length, which is about 10-33 centimeters, or about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. Unfortunately, this means that strings are way too small to see by current or expected particle physics technology (or financing!!) and so string theorists must devise more clever methods to test the theory than just looking for little strings in particle experiments.

String theories are classified according to whether or not the strings are required to be closed loops, and whether or not the particle spectrum includes fermions. In order to include fermions in string theory, there must be a special kind of symmetry called supersymmetry, which means for every boson (particle that transmits a force) there is a corresponding fermion (particle that makes up matter). So supersymmetry relates the particles that transmit forces to the particles that make up matter.

Supersymmetric partners to to currently known particles have not been observed in particle experiments, but theorists believe this is because supersymmetric particles are too massive to be detected at current accelerators. Particle accelerators could be on the verge of finding evidence for high energy supersymmetry in the next decade. Evidence for supersymmetry at high energy would be compelling evidence that string theory was a good mathematical model for Nature at the smallest distance scales.

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Excellent sites relating to SuperString Theory -

UC Santa Barbara Physics Dept. - SuperStrings Web Site - Top-Notch online tutorial on SuperStrings and Excellent Links

The Official String Theory Website, An excellent web site about string theory with Biographies on some of the String Researchers

'Superstring Theory' by Brian Greene,- Cornell University

'String Theory' by Robbert Dijkgraaf,- University of Amsterdam

A World of Strings,- from www.HyperMind.com

Stephen Hawking's Universe,- Web site based on the PBS series - has some info on strings

Michio Kaku - Co-Founder of SuperString Field Theory

Michio Kaku's article on latest SuperString Theory

String theory in a nutshell,- has a small collection of essays on String Theory

Superstrings and Fundamental theory,- Part of a larger and Excellent Physics web site from the Cambridge Relativity Group